MISSOULA, Mont. — South Dakota received $450,154 in grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners for wildlife habitat enhancement and hunting heritage projects. RMEF directly granted $177,446 and leveraged an additional $272,708 in partner dollars.
“These funds will help restore forest meadows, improve forage for elk and other wildlife, enhance forest health, repair wildlife water sources, treat invasive weeds, expand public access for hunters, protect aspen stands and support scientific wildlife research,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Nine of the 17 grants specifically assist youth involved in archery, shooting sports and conservation programs.”
Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 396 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in South Dakota with a combined value of more than $39.5 million. These projects protected or enhanced 111,282 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 11,472 acres.
South Dakota is home to more than 4,400 RMEF members and 17 chapters.
“This funding is available to be put on the ground in South Dakota because of the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. We salute them for that,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.
Below is a list of South Dakota’s 2020 projects, shown by county.
- Provide funding for the Beadle County 4-H Shooting Sports program that teaches safe and responsible firearms use and improves marksmanship skills for youth ages 8-18.
Charles Mix County
- Provide funding for the Platte-Geddes High School trap team that provides youth an opportunity to safely handle guns and improve at trap shooting.
- Provide funding for the Codington County 4-H Shooting Sports program for youth ages 8-18 interested in developing personal knowledge and confidence regarding firearms while doing so in a team environment.
- Provide funding to research new trail camera survey techniques to estimate elk and deer population abundance and herd composition in the Black Hills. The results will inform future survey methods used for determining accurate population trends and allocating an appropriate number of hunting licenses (also benefits Lawrence and Pennington Counties).
- Thin ponderosa pine on 197 acres in Custer State Park to improve forest health and increase forage production by triggering the growth of grasses in an area impacted by a 1988 wildfire and heavily used by elk.
- Remove encroaching ponderosa pine and cedar trees from 155 acres of meadow habitat in the Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest to maintain native grasses and forbs that provide forage for wildlife. The project utilizes a combination of techniques such as winter cutting and piling, and mastication followed by native seeding in the spring (also benefits Pennington County).
- Improve decadent mountain mahogany, an important shrub species for wildlife browse, across 34 acres on the Friendshuh Game Production Area to support new growth. Additional treatments aim to protect shrubs from over-browsing by livestock and wildlife.
- Provide volunteer manpower to repair fencing around two exclosures that protect aspen stands in Custer State Park. Volunteers also remove encroaching pine as well as dilapidated fencing and debris from the immediate area.
Fall River County
- Provide funding to help South Dakota’s Access Program expand opportunities within the Black Hills Private Land Elk Hunting Access Program to an estimated 27,000 acres in the Southern Black Hills (also benefits Bennett, Custer, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington Counties).
- Provide funding and volunteer manpower in coordination with the Black Hills National Forest to monitor and repair wildlife water guzzlers across the Northern Hills Ranger District.
- Inventory and treat invasive weeds across 96 acres on both private land and the Black Hills National Forest to contain any potential spread.
- Provide funding for the Black Hills Archery program that offers instruction in archery fundamentals and youth development.
- Provide funding for the Winner Area High School Trap Club, a program for youth grades 6-12 to learn and improve in trap shooting in a fun, safe environment.
- Provide funding for the Yankton High School Trap Team. Youth ages 14-18 receive firearm safety instruction prior to participation and receive shooting skills assistance throughout the program.
- Provide funding to add archery to recreation programs offered to youth and adults at the Black Hills Retreat Center. Trained staff provide instruction in archery skills and safe practices to participants from across South Dakota and visitors from other states.
- Provide funding for the shooting sports program at Lewis and Clark Scout Camp southeast of Tabor, which hosts more than 2,000 scouts from across the country each summer. Attendees learn how to handle and maintain equipment in a responsible manner while receiving instruction in archery, black powder, shotgun and other types of shooting.
- Provide funding for Deadwood History Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides a series of free public programs at the Adams Museum about the natural and cultural history, and diversity of the Black Hills region.
Project partners include South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Black Hills National Forest and various sportsmen, conservation, government, business and volunteer groups and individuals.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.